A young boy named Randy Gardner managed to go without sleep for an astounding 11 days, 24 minutes (or 264.4 hours) in the past. Although Gardner showed signs of physical, mental, and emotional degeneration and severe insomnia decades later, he is still alive and well today in his 70s.
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Although Gardner survived his 11-day sleep deprivation experiment, anyone who has ever been in that position can attest to the fact that death seems very close.
Chronic sleep loss causes a cascade of symptoms: You will feel worse as your sleep debt increases. A lack of sleep for even two nights can leave you feeling grumpy, short-tempered, unmotivated, and sluggish the following day.
After a week of inadequate rest, you may find yourself short with others, emotional over trivial matters, unable to concentrate, either overeating or undereating, and relying on stimulants to get through the day. Hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions are just some of the scary side effects of going without sleep for too long.
How long can you go before your body breaks down from lack of sleep? What about going without sleep for an extended period of time; is that fatal as well? CNET went to sleep doctors for answers.
Can you die from not sleeping?
“There is no evidence that a lack of sleep can directly kill you,” says DC Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy expert Annie Miller with a deadpan delivery.
A sleep deprivation-related fatality appears to be the cause of death in one highly rare hereditary condition.
FFI is characterized by mild insomnia that rapidly worsens into an inability to sleep at all and has a high heritability. Autonomic dysfunction, including digestion and body temperature regulation, declines in people with FFI, in addition to dementia and trouble with motor control.
Miller argues, however, that “it is more likely that FFI patients die from neural degeneration, rather than lack of sleep,” as this is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain.
Despite the well-documented risks associated with insufficient sleep, Miller seems to urge individuals to embrace the challenge. She explains that she believes people’s inability to sleep is exacerbated by their fear of staying awake. “Remember the new parents among us. We have a natural tolerance for sleep deprivation.”
Miller makes an excellent case. Even while regular chores may feel more challenging and dull, it appears that humans are quite capable during periods of complete or partial sleep deprivation. That’s what Randy Gardner would say.
The “No Sleep” Timeline
At 24 Hours
At 36 Hours
At 48 Hours
At 72 Hours
Can food and water intake have any effect on this?
The meals you crave and how hungry you feel are both susceptible to shifts in sleep deficit. Sleep deprivation, according to studies, increases appetite and the desire for foods that contribute to weight gain. But in the long run, eating a lot of empty calories can make you feel even more exhausted.
The negative consequences of sleep loss can be mitigated to some degree by maintaining a healthy diet. Protein-rich foods like almonds and nut butters, cottage cheese, and tofu are good choices when you’re trying to conserve energy. Stay away from steak and cheese, both of which are high in fat. These are a surefire way to get a good night’s rest.
It’s also crucial to stay hydrated, as sleep deprivation can make you feel even groggier and less able to focus if you’re dehydrated.
How lack of sleep can kill you
You read correctly; sleep deprivation is not fatal unless you have the extremely rare hereditary illness known as FFI. Although there is no concrete proof that sleep deprivation causes death, sleep deprivation-related complications can and can cause death.
Dr. Shelby Harris, a registered psychologist, board-certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist, and professor of neurology, argues that a lack of sleep can increase a person’s total morbidity risk and, in turn, increase the likelihood of death. According to her research, there are a number of ways in which inadequate sleep might raise medical complications.
- Disruption of normal immunological response.
- Puts you at higher risk for developing heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, diabetes, sleep apnea, and hypertension.
- Suicide risk rises in tandem with the prevalence of depression.
- Caused by psychosis, which can result in self-injury.
The likelihood of experiencing an incident like a slip and fall or getting hurt in any way is greatly increased by sleep loss, both total and partial. For instance, being sleep deprived greatly increases the risks associated with operating heavy machinery (including driving a car).
Lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of death from a variety of causes. People have died from what appears to be sleep deprivation during gaming marathons. The autopsy reports show that the actual cause of death was a combination of exhaustion and heart failure, heart attack, or stroke.
Symptoms of severe sleep deprivation
Extreme sleep deprivation can make you feel like you’re dying, despite the fact that it won’t actually kill you. Extreme physical and mental effects are expected if you stay awake for more than 48 hours straight.
- Memory loss.
- Inability to focus on typical everyday duties.
- Muscle weakness.
- Heightened anxiety.
- Delusions (believing false information) (believing false information).
- Rapid heart rate.
- Inability to make decisions.
- Poor reaction time.
- Getting tongue-tied.
- Physical sickness (due to reduced immunological function) (due to impaired immune function).
In the event that you are having trouble sleeping and are suffering any of the aforementioned symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately. At that time, you shouldn’t risk getting into an accident by driving yourself to the hospital; instead, you should have a sober friend or family member take you there.
Sleep Deprivation – Possible Causes & Symptoms
Morvan’s syndrome manifests itself in a variety of ways, including pain, fatigue, and an inability to sleep.
Fatal Familial Insomnia
Restless Legs Syndrome
How long can you go without sleep?
No one knows for sure how long people can go without sleep. Randy Gardner and others who have deliberately forgone sleep in pursuit of world records have shown that it is possible to survive for extended periods of time without any rest.
It is obvious that adverse consequences begin after just one day of total sleep deprivation and after a couple of nights of partial sleep deprivation, thus it is always advisable to aim to obtain as much sleep as possible.
Are you getting enough sleep?
A sufficient amount of sleep is subjective, and the roots of the “8 hours is the magic number” are unclear. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll notice.
A well-rested individual should experience a sense of alertness, have a healthy appetite, and have sufficient drive and discipline to carry out daily duties. You probably need more sleep if you’ve been feeling any of the following: increased irritability, cravings for unhealthy food or other appetite changes, lack of motivation, sadness or anxiety, physical weariness, or a difficulty to focus.
How much sleep do you really need?
How many hours of sleep you need each night varies with your age, according to a reliable source. In general, adults require less sleep than children and adolescents do.
Recommendations for the amount of sleep you should get each day vary with age, and they may be found at the CDCReliable Source.
|Age||Daily sleep recommendations|
|preschool-age children||10-13 hours|
|school-age children||9-12 hours|
It’s possible that your sleep requirements vary depending on your gender. Studies According to Reliable Sources, women, on average, sleep a little longer than men do, however the underlying causes of this discrepancy remain a mystery.
The caliber of one’s sleep is also crucial. Make an appointment with your physician if you’re worried about your sleep habits.
General sleep hygiene tips
In terms of sleep, quality is just as important as quantity. It’s been shown that effective sleep hygiene practices lead to better nightly rest. A better night’s sleep and more energy during the day are both possible outcomes of practicing better sleep hygiene.
Guidelines for better rest include:
- Keeping the same bedtime and wake-up hour every day, even on the weekends.
- Banishment of all electronic devices from the bedroom (including but not limited to smartphones, computers, and televisions).
- Maintaining a cool, dark, and pleasant sleeping environment.
- Refraining from using nicotine and caffeine in the hours leading up to night.
- Relaxation techniques like taking a warm bath, reading a book, or doing breathing exercises are great ways to wind down before bed.
- Maintaining a regular exercise routine, but avoiding strenuous activities in the hours before bedtime.
- Staying away from late-night snacks is recommended.
- Napping during the day should last no more than twenty minutes at the most.